1

Star-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet: This Verona is Full of Strife and… Pizza Sauce?!

bookreview

 

Fakespeare: Starcrossed in Romeo and JulietStar-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet
(Fakespeare, #1)
by M.E. Castle

280 Pages
Middle-grade / Children’s / Retellings
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group /
Imprint Publishing
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Get a copy here!

BLURB:

Three kids get lost inside Shakespeare’s book and must help Romeo and Juliet finish their story in order to return home in this silly middle school series!

Dear Reader, 

You are reading this because you expressed interest in the Get Lost Book Club. 

Are you ready to embark on a journey to Italy, where you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a major feud between two rival pizza-making families: the Montagues and the Capulets? A swordsman and perfumer will hunt you. There will be disguises, fake pizza, and tomato fights (make sure to duck!). You must help Becca, her stepbrother Sam, and her dog Rufus convince Romeo Montague to ask Juliet Capulet on a date, or you will all be stuck in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet forever! 

Intrigued? Worried? Downright terrified? You should be. But if you’re ready for an adventure, step right up and follow me. It’s time to get lost.

Sincerely,

The Narrator

addtogoodreads

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: this was, throughout, laugh out loud hilarious; I LOVE the new “spins” that M.E. Castle put on this classic; the morals and lessons are whimsical, witty, and well-done; the nods to the original play were woven in to this story brilliantly

HUGE thanks to M.E. Castle and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Imprint Publishing for sending me a gorgeous hardcover copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, Penguins. Here’s what’s going to happen next: I’m going to FREAK THE FRACK OUT about this hilarious, awesome book…and then you’re going to drop everything you’re doing for the next few hours and go read it! Trust me, the time is well worth it, and passes in a fit of rib-cracking laughter and manic cackling that’s bound to make your (insert family, roommate, lover, children, pet, wallpaper, violent pink flamingo, etc. here) wonder just what it is you’re up to. Which is GOOD, because that means more Penguins wanting to pick this book up, and that means my army will grow even bigger! Yes. This is such a great plan, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner!

 

This book is, as I mentioned a time or two earlier, absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious! Within a page, I was giggling (very obnoxiously, might I add). From the very get go, this book sucked me into the story–almost as literally as the book in the book that eats the main characters, in fact! (Wow, that was a mouthful of a sentence! Let’s not do that again.) The action begins almost immediately upon landing in Verona, though we quickly learn that things are not QUITE like the original play led us to believe. This retelling was super inventive, with some genius spins on the “tragedy” that kept this read perfectly acceptable for young hearts and minds. I really appreciated the amount of humor M.E. Castle put into this, while still maintaining the bigger plot points from Shakespeare’s star-crossed tale of woe.

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The morals and lessons woven throughout the journey–about bullying, and family, and self-love/self-acceptance, and so many other delicious things!–were well-handled and portrayed in a light that made them both entertainingly humorous and super easy to understand. This is such a great book to lead mid-grade readers to, both for the morals AND for the introduction to Shakespeare. While the prose is much less complex (and much easier to understand!) than Shakespeare’s tragedy, the main story is still mostly there–just minus the actual TRAGEDY of the, uh, tragedy.

 

I had an absolute BLAST blasting my way through this retelling, and cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series (and YAY me, I already own it!) These characters are entertaining and set on a path of growth/acceptance; the prose is humorous and enlightening; and the new spins on an old tragedy both made this read unique and were laugh-out-loud hilarious. I definitely recommend this to lovers of middle-grade novels, those seeking a less intimidating introduction to The Bard, and readers who love humor and word play. Be careful when touching this book, Penguins; it just might eat you while your back is turned!

9

Pixie and the Green Book Mystery: Fast-Paced and Entertaining

bookreview

Pixie And The Green Book Mystery (Pixie Book Mystery 1)

Just like in the Never Ending Story, you’ll leap into a magical book filled with unforgettable characters on a quest to save their stories.

Pixie’s school day is an apple disaster, but a trip to the library changes everything. Fairytales have come to life out of their books and danger is lurking. It’s up to our book loving hero to get them out of the mysterious green book and back into their stories. The clock is ticking. Tick! Tock!

addtogoodreads

Pixie Book Mystery #1
Children’s Books / Chapter Books / Fantasy
Wonder Bay Publishing
Publication Date:  November 19th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: adorable, quick, light read; the pace is fast, but believable; love the play on fairy tales; interesting, unique characters; this book promises and delivers HUGE fun; I chuckled several times; even the easily-bored little readers will settle into this quickly

Huge thanks to Coraline Grace and Wonder Bay Publishing for sending me a free digital copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

This was a super cute, entertaining, fast-paced chapter book. I was sucked into the story from page one and kept enthralled throughout. There were several moments I even found myself giggling to myself, as the antics of some of the characters were so amusing. The action is pretty fast-paced, and while it seems that a LOT of things happen in a small amount of time, in the end it is also fairly believable–after all, the events take place (for the most part) in a quick trip to the library, and therefore happen in a very short sequence. This didn’t bother me, though; while a lot happens, it is in no way overwhelming, and I followed the story line very easily.

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Pixie and the cast of characters she meets in these pages are strong-willed and independent. I really enjoyed the way Coraline Grace played with fairy tales; the introduction of the Book Guardian brought about a sense of drama and mystery, and enabled her to explore options she might not have been in regards to “changing” the stories the way that this book does.

 

I had a TON of fun diving into this short chapter book, and am intrigued with how the rest of the series will unfold. The plot is fast-paced but believable, the characters are unique and entertaining, and I am so glad to have been given the chance to pick this book up! If you’ve a young reader who is easily bored or distracted in your life, you should try this book–it’s a wild, entertaining ride from start to finish, and is bound to capture even the most fussy of book penguins! The Green Book Mystery is taking over a library near you, penguins; how will the fairy tales YOU adore be changed? You’ll have to read this series to find out!

0

Magical Stories: Cute Stories, Cliche Resolutions

bookreview

Magical Stories: A Collection of Short Stories for Children Aged 3-103

A child’s imagination is something that seems to fade away as we age, but this book will keep that fire alive! You and your children will enjoy exploring the depths of pure imagination, fun, and excitement by reading this book. Not only will you enjoy these aspects, but you will also enjoy a priceless bonding experience, as your minds run wild from the stories that are told in this collection!

In this book you will enjoy:

• Letting your imagination run wild
• Large, bright, artistic and colorful chapter pictures
• 10 easy-to-read stories that you will love to share aloud
• A bonding experience that teaches, educates and exercises the mind
• Stories that your children will absolutely love!

Magical Stories is a book that is full of fairy-tales, which are geared for children, age’s four to twelve, but for absolutely everyone to enjoy nonetheless! As society advances with technology, the simplicity of downloading this eBook makes reading easier, and much more relaxing.

You and your child will love reading this collection over and over again, whether it is breakfast time, or bed time. As things like Television and Tablets are consuming family time at a rapid rate, there is no better investment than sharing a priceless collection of stories with each other.

Fun for the whole family!

This is an excellent storybook primarily aimed for children aged 4 – 12 years. Early readers will enjoy the stories read aloud to them. Kids and children can practice their reading skills or have a parent/teacher read it aloud. These special stories include lessons and morals about building confidence, self-esteem, caring, sharing and love.

Story List:
• Dali the Different Little Dragon
• Finding a Fairy
• The Puppet Show
• Tilly the Polka-Dotted Tiger
• Lilly and the Fairy Land
• Timmy the Elf
• Daisy the Dragon
• Thomas and the Mermaid
• Laura the Leprechaun
• The Adventures of William Scott

Fantasy/Paranormal/Children’s Literature
109 Pages
Publication Date:  November 17th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: large array of intriguing characters; some well-handled moral implications; the plots seemed overly simplified and, in a lot of instances, rushed at the end; not much action or adventure; I felt a bit bored overall

Huge thanks to Píaras Ó Cionnaoith for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

Let’s start with the small things first, yes? There are SO MANY different characters to be found in these stories. I found myself constantly wondering (as I don’t read story titles ahead of time often) what creatures I’d be reading about next, and what sorts of lives they were bound to live. There is a cute sense of “happily ever after” to the resolution of every story, and the prose is whimsical and poetic enough to entrance even the most finicky of young listeners/readers.

Píaras Ó Cionnaoith revisited some of the characters from his collection of poetry, that I reviewed in the last few months of last year. This was both surprising, for me, and delightful–it enabled me to more fully “see” those characters, and better grasp their stories and troubles. I was especially happy to realize I recognized such characters–while a few I wasn’t so sure about, several I knew immediately from their names. It was nice, being able to revisit and rediscover them in this collection.

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There were, however, some things that I wasn’t so impressed with. There was, for instance, a lot of repetition–the narrator would explain something once, only to follow it up with different word choices two or three more times before moving on. The plot also seemed a bit off-pace; the beginnings seemed to take FAR longer than the resolutions, and the resolutions seemed to be in some instances forced or too easily patched up. There was a sense of off-balance throughout, I suppose, and many of the “struggles” faced by the characters were almost too easily resolved or looked beyond. I found myself, due to this, feeling pretty bored with the read overall.

There were also a lot of instances of awkward or weird phrasing. Several times, I found myself struggling to comprehend just what was being said, or needing to add in or substitute words within sentences to understand. While this isn’t a bad thing–these mistakes were minor enough they didn’t hinder my read TOO much–it was a bit confusing, and interrupted the flow of my reading for several seconds at a time.

All told, this probably wasn’t the best fit for me personally. While these are cute, well-written children’s stories that do a great job at subtly promoting lessons like kindness, friendship, and acceptance…I found the pace of the plot to be a bit off-balance, and the resolutions to be almost too easily reached. It was fun, though, to revisit some characters I discovered in Píaras Ó Cionnaoith’s magical poetry collection. I would recommend this to those with young children, lovers of mythical creatures, and happily-ever-after seekers.

3

Magic Poetry: A Bit TOO Stiff for My Taste

Penguin2.3

Magic Poetry: Illustrated Children's Verse for Ages 3-7

This collection of children’s poetry spans over a forty year period. Taking a break from serious writing, I remembered some of the songs and poems I wrote as a young teenager. I thought I’d share them here with you now. They may not be ‘classics’ by no means but I hope your children or grandchildren will find fun in reading them.

The one thing about poetry, I believe, is that it’s everlasting. Words are beautiful and uplifting if they are used in the right way. I hope that by sharing this collection of poetry, it will introduce young minds to a world of endless opportunities. Imagination is like the Universe…endless in its possibilities.

I hope that this work will encourage young minds. I also hope that exploring the mystical realm will ignite creativity to encourage future writers to astound us with their imaginings. It starts with a few simple words.

Children’s/Poetry/Fantasy
46 Pages
Publication Date: August 1st, 2015
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: cute and fun; full of fantastical creatures; some of the rhyming felt a bit stiff or forced to me; I wish there had been more “moral” poems; love the graphics/illustrations

Huge thank you to Píaras Ó Cionnaoith for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

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This is a super adorable, super fun collection of fantastical children’s poems. I really adored and appreciated the illustrations/graphics that separate each poem and give a “glimpse” into the character coming up–they helped to break up the pages and to keep the flow moving, if that makes sense?

I do wish, though, that a bit more story-telling had been put into the poems. Several of them seem to be saying the same thing– how excited about the fantastical creatures the poet is, and that’s great! But I felt as if a lot of the poems introduced a character in very simple ways and then ended without telling a story or leaving me with anything to think about. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a children’s book/a collection of children’s poetry, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be poems with stories or morals! Just look at Shel Silverstein, for instance–his poems are super quirky and sometimes very wild, but they all make a statement of some kind. Dr. Seuss is much the same way.

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I did have fun taking a walk through this author’s world. There were a few poems scattered throughout that seemed to be making a moral statement or passing along a lesson, and these proved to be some of my favorites. Several of the poems, though, didn’t present the creature in question in any new or inventive ways, instead calling upon the more well-known lore, which was disappointing–they felt a bit like pieces of cardboard, to me, plopped onto a page without really being colored in as individualized, unique characters.

While the rhyming was sing-songy and fun, I also felt like a lot of it came off as stiff or forced. Several times, I came across poems that changed up the meter or rhyme scheme so much, I couldn’t figure out what rhythm to read them with–I imagine, if I’d been reading this to a child, it might have sounded a bit awkward or mismatched.

 

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Overall, this was a cute read with a ton of adorable illustrations, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as I’d been hoping to going in. While there are a ton of characters and creatures covered, they didn’t really stand up on their own–they felt a bit stiff and unnatural, instead of leaping to life off the pages. I was, in the end, left feeling slightly disappointed, though there were several poems scattered throughout that I might revisit in the future. Still, I recommend this to readers with young children, lovers of fantastical/mythical creatures, and poet enthusiasts of all ages!

3

In the Land of Broken Time: Time May Break, But Make Sure You Learn From It

Penguin2.3

In The Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

52 Pages
Self-Published
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2016
Available on Kindle Unlimited
Get a copy here!

This book is about the adventures of the boy named Christopher, the girl named Sophia and retriever Duke. By chance they found themselves in a balloon, that took them into a fairyland, where mysterious events happen.

Children wanted to find the way home. The heroes had to solve a lot of mysteries. They learned interesting ways of time measuring and found a time machine.

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: action-packed, fast-paced adventure; the whimsy and wonder of this read took me back to my childhood; this mixes “fun” with “learning” and I adored that; some great lessons and morals passed along to readers; not real heavy on the illustrations–but the ones included are super adorable and add to the journey

HUGE thank you to Max and Maria Evan for forwarding me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

Now, I have a confession to make, dear penguins: this? Was my first children’s book done for a read and review. I mean, I’ve been reading middle grade for a while, but until this moment, had not picked up a children’s book in years (because they’re different, you know–middle grade and children’s books are not the same). Don’t get me wrong–this wasn’t due to some uppity or snooty reason. It’s just that I don’t have kids, I’m not real close to my family members who DO have small children, and I no longer work in a childcare service. I suppose I could still pick up children’s books despite all this, and I might, in the future–but until today, I hadn’t really even considered breaking into this genre for my reviews. And then I read the synopsis for THIS book. And I immediately changed my mind.

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The plot is fast-paced and action packed. Children of all ages (and I don’t necessarily mean just the small ones!) are bound to love the whimsy and wonder portrayed throughout this read. Some of the world-building, however, was a bit confusing for me overall. While I understand the children reached the alternate world through their hot air balloon ride…it was unclear exactly HOW the balloon got them there, or why the world is so similar and yet so different from our own. Of course, I could argue that this is the point–the imagination knows no bounds, and therefore might have played a huge role in a lot of the story, but… I don’t think that’s the case, personally.

 

There are also some great lessons and morals being passed along here. Things like being brave, doing the right thing, and supporting your friends even when things don’t go your way are all called into question and examined closely. Also examined are the differences between “good,” “evil,” and that shady “gray area” in between; try, try, and try again (failure is not an option unless you make it one); and appropriately managing your time. There are, I’m sure, others that I missed or am forgetting about–this book is FULL of lessons and morals, and I loved discovering each of them in turn!

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This is a whimsical, fun, entertaining read–and I’m sure parents and children alike will appreciate the action and the lessons found within the pages. While there are few illustrations, the artwork is adorable, vibrant, and lends even more action to the story/dialogue–as well as, in a few instances, playing key roles in the plot! I am so, so glad I gave this book a chance–and can’t wait to explore, in the future, other reads like it! I definitely recommend to lovers of magical whimsy, “races” to beat time, and moral-laden journeys of friendship and self-discovery.